Nicole Mahoney, University of Maryland, College Park
MCEAS Consortium Fellow
“Liberty, Gentility, and Dangerous Liaisons: French Culture and
Polite Society in the Early Republic, 1775-1800”
Nicole’s dissertation argues that Francophilia, not Anglophilia, governed the origins of American social and political identity after the Revolutionary War. Elite Americans adopted the etiquette, performance, sociability, and accoutrements of French gentility to secure themselves at the helm of American polite society and to cast themselves on the world stage as more than provincial former British subjects. Her research contests the idea that lingering Anglophilia was the organizing concept in post-Revolutionary American cultural history. Instead, she asserts that by adopting French genteel culture and aesthetics, American leaders cast themselves as more than unsophisticated provincials on the world stage. Not content to be passive consumers of British goods or former colonists on the fringes of the British Empire, ambitious American men and women wielded the symbolic authority of French genteel culture in order to elevate and to legitimize their places domestically and internationally following the Revolutionary War.